Elections We Can All Believe In

The *Other* Reason America Needs Honest Elections

Steven F. Freeman
Election Integrity

--

Everyone understands one reason why honest elections are important: to be able to choose representatives we trust and respect. Without free and fair elections we could (hypothetically) wind up with unscrupulous leaders, unconcerned with the country and even less the people in it.

But there is also another reason election integrity is crucial which ought to be apparent now even if it wasn’t a few months ago. Elections are the way to peacefully resolve differences in a democracy.

Elections are important to anoint winners, but even more important to assuage the losers and thereby maintain a civil society. Fair and open elections provide an opportunity for all to have their say, even run for office, and have a fair chance to prevail. Under these conditions, those who have lost can accept that the electorate chose otherwise, that they’ll have a chance again in the next election, but that they now must abide by the outcome.

It is not enough to say that the votes are counted honestly, or even to actually count them honestly. Democracy requires that citizens can see for themselves that votes are counted honestly.

Inviting Mistrust

Reliance on vote-counting machines in the late 1960s, and especially the introduction of electronic voting in 2002, left little reason to trust official numbers. Early-voting and vote-by-mail have introduced still more opportunities for fraud and undermined the most important remaining means of verifying results.

Accordingly, trust in US election results declined sharply. Not coincidentally, trust in nearly all American institutions has correspondingly plummeted. Only 1 in 10 Americans now express confidence in Congress, a number that’s difficult to reconcile with supposedly representative government.

This crescendos to new levels of incredulity with the 2020 US Presidential election.

In Detroit, election officials not only kept credentialed observers out of the room where the count was conducted, they papered the windows so no one could see.

Has the Political Establishment tried to instill trust?

All but the most brutal dictatorships rely on a citzenry’s trust in the system. Apparently aware of emerging or anticipated suspicions, the US political establishment mounted a vigorous campaign to instill trust about the 2020 election by assuring us constantly that this was the most secure in history and that all claims of fraud or security gaps are baseless. (If you’re wondering who is the political establishment, look at who’s been saying this.) They intensified an already unprecedented campaign to prevent transmission of “fake-news,” — that is anything that runs counter to official “facts” — by closing social media accounts, censoring search results, blocking discussion of election fraud (even historical election fraud!), etc….

This campaign has, of course, been spectacularly unsuccessful. Even Ground Zero acknowledges so. Has it persuaded even 1 American? On the other hand, 55 million or more who might have simply questioned the results now conclude an election was stolen and that the entire political establishment not only is lying to them, but dead-set on taking away our constitutional rights of speech and assembly as well as representation — a real life manifestation of the very empires that film, fiction and history have taught us must be resisted, by force if necessary.

Then when the fruits of this mistrust play out on Wednesday Jan 6th, and before anyone could even begin to unravel what’s really happened, the media and tech giants doubled down. The New York Times both prosecuted The storming of Capitol Hill was organized on social media” and issued a summary judgment. “Violence on Capitol Hill Is a Day of Reckoning for Social Media.” Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube conducted a de-platforming blitzkrieg, censoring posts, removing videos, and closing accounts, including that of the President, even as he was telling protestors to be peaceful and go home.

All this raises the question: Has the political establishment abandoned not only democracy, but any concern about trust in institutions? Are they prepared to rule America entirely by force, relegating a majority of average working people and (former) small business to ?

Assuming not, I’d like to suggest a different approach to restoring peace in America — the way to peacefully resolve differences in a democracy, Elections We Can All Believe In.

How We *Can* Instill Trust in Elections

Given the state of American elections for the past generation and its current fractured state. present state of America, is it even possible that we can hold an election where all sides can accept the results? Reading the news about unbridgeable partisan divides, it would seem not. Given, too, that outstanding leaders such as Zuckerberg, Dorsey, Pichai, Bezos, Sulzberger, Pelosi, McConnell, etc… have failed, it might seem an impossibility.

But in fact, it’s remarkably easy. All it takes to is to adopt transparent processes that characterize every legitimate election from selecting a shop steward to national leader. We need to simply do what democracies throughout the world actually do (e.g., Germany[i], France[ii], Canada[iii], Ireland[iv], Denmark, and many, many others).

1. In-person voting at the polls on Election Day. Absentee voting restricted to unavoidable absences. Establish polling places at U.S. embassies, consulates and military bases for those abroad.

Many countries stain fingers in indelible ink to prevent voting than once (Iraq, March 2010: UPI / Ali Jasim)

2. Paper ballots filled out in ink

British Columbia, Canada, ballot on a 2018 Proportional-representation referendum (Canadian Press)

3. Poll watchers representing all parties and candidates ensured a full and effective view of the entire election process

4. Ballots cast in secure boxes in full view with unbroken chain-of-custody

Mexican Otomies ethnic group women cast their vote during the general elections in Solalpan village in Mexico state on July 1, 2018. (Mario Vazquez/AFP/Getty Images)

5. Hand counts of all ballots at the local polling place (not a central counting facility), immediately upon close of voting.

Ethiopia: Counting Votes After 2015 Election (euronews)

6. Tallies posted on polling place doors and online immediately upon completion of the count.

7. Election results comprise the sum of tallies from each individual polling place.

Sign the Americans United for Election Integrity petition. Join us.

Election Integrity

Technology and process for honest elections: Simple.

The politics of change: A tremendous challenge. Every US politician owes his career to this corrupt system. So change won’t be easy.

But the U.S. was the world’s first modern democracy. Throughout most of our history, it’s been a beacon of democracy throughout the world. With your help, it can be again.

Sign the petition. Join us.

--

--

Steven F. Freeman
Election Integrity

Expertise: crisis preparedness, resiliency, innovation, research methods & applications. Faculty Jefferson, UPenn+. PhD MIT. Advising industry, govnt, orgs, YOU